The war-torn far-future is laid bare as Brothers of the Snake follows the exploits of the Iron Snakes Space Marines as they battle against the enemies of mankind. First appearing in the pages of Inferno!, the Iron Snakes Space Marines quickly gathered a loyal following and now they make their debut in a full-blown adventure!
What better way to start The Year of Snake then a review of Dan Abnett's Brothers of the Snake? The first thing you should know is that unlike other Space Marine novels, Brothers of the Snake is a collection of short stories following the Damocles squad of the Iron Snakes Chapter. The format is a little unusual and I had doubts at first but on the whole I thought it turned out pretty great. It's essentially a series condensed into one book.
The thing I found fascinating is the culture and traditions of the Chapter and how much they have diverged from their progenitors. Since Iron Snakes is such a little known chapter, this book allows Abnett full rein on making this Chapter truly his own. Just like how different the Mortifators are from the Ultramarines, the Iron Snakes too have their quirks. The Chapter's homeworld is covered by vast oceans and water from the planet is considered sacred. Before each mission, the marines would hold ceremonies to share and anoint themselves with the sacred water. Also instead of working as a company, each 10 men squad operate independently of each other. Usually a few squads are enough to take care of most situations and only in times of crisis will you find the might of the Chapter brought together.
I've always been fascinated by the selection and training processes of the Space Marines. I absolutely loved those parts in Mitchel Scanlon's Descent of Angels and Ian Watson's Space Marine. So I was thrilled to read about the "cheese run" that the initiates have to undertake and in order to become a full-fledged squad member, the initiates must first best the existing squad members in one-on-one duels.
Even though Priad was promoted to the rank of Sergeant a little too quickly, he did make a brilliant leader. His unwavering sense of honour and selflessness is very reminiscent of the Ultramarines. Despite suffering from heavy losses which resulted in frequent replacement of squad members, the squad never lost the bond between brothers. Abnett brilliantly conveyed the relationship and camaraderie between battle brothers. New members are welcomed into the squad and given plenty of opportunity to prove their worth.
I love the connection between the short stories; especially how the first and last story wrap things up to give a satisfying conclusion. With each story we learn just a little more about this lesser known Chapter.
This a brilliant one off Space Marine novel with epic action and timeless characters. The Iron Snakes definitely deserve more stories devoted to them.